I sat on a rooftop patio with Roberto Herrera, the son of the lady whose home I lived in while studying in Mérida, México, and Roberto’s friend Luis. Roberto told Luis my family had immigrated to the United States, and Luis asked me if I had moved to the United States as a “Dreamer,” to which I replied “No.” I have the fortune and privilege of having two American-born parents, and I was born in Texas.
Luis asked me about the so-called “Dream Act,” revealing he studied in the United States with many students who came to the U.S. from Mexico, and other countries as well, to study under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. These friends earned jobs in the U.S. workforce on ten-year work visas, some of them even starting families in the States. After his anecdotes about his time in the U.S., he asked me my opinion on DACA’s rescission by the Trump administration.
I support DACA, a program which—until Oct. 5, 2017, the final date for adjudication of DACA renewal application—accepts and brings in close to one million students, workers, entrepreneurs and children every year. These Dreamers have become doctors, attorneys, soldiers and nurses—and many have become American citizens. While the program itself is not a definitive path towards citizenship, it grants thousands of immigrants the chance to live, study, and work in the United States. Perhaps even more importantly, it gives children brought to the U.S., not by choice, a chance to control their own lives, and to obtain the necessary education to become a member of the workforce. These opportunities ought to be indicative of a country willing to accept new cultures and peoples, a country whose founding fathers came from another continent, as well as a country whose workforce and economy have historically been dependent upon immigrants.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it was taking the proper legal steps to “repeal” DACA. The administration stated it was giving the opportunity to act on DACA to Congress, “where it belongs.” It is worth noting the Republican majority Congress considered the DREAM bill three times already: in 2007, where it could not overcome a filibuster in the Senate; in 2011, where it passed in the House, but, again, could not overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate; and, in 2013, where it was not even brought to table in the House. These failures by Republicans to act on a bill – which would have provided a path to legal authorization of citizenship for undocumented students and workers – prompted Obama’s executive order to enact the policy. With all this said, Congress still would not have the power to defund DACA, meaning the Trump administration’s approach to the situation has no legal standing. Both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have claimed DACA to be unconstitutional, although since the executive order was signed, no federal court has found this to be the case. When known felon and ex-sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio brought the policy to the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C., he was dismissed on the basis that he did not have standing.
Trump’s solution to ridding our country of an “unconstitutional” program is to send it to die in Congress; this non-action on his part is certainly meant to appease his power base and conservative constituency (who have been proven to be in the minority since November 8, 2016). In a statement after his decision to commence the repeal of DACA, Trump said he felt “compassion” for those affected, but he knew it was the right decision; however, Trump’s own history with Mexican-Americans would suggest otherwise. He built his campaign on “rescinding DACA on day one,” on building a wall to keep alleged rapists and drug dealers out, on the claim that Mexico “does not send its best” when immigrants come looking for work and safety and telling the country of Mexico they are not “our friend.” However, now in his moment of victory and self-righteousness, he claims compassion at the prospect of sending millions of children and peaceful workers back to the very place they have tried to escape.
One of the most uninformed and bigoted claims against DACA is that it brings thousands of unchecked criminals over the border each year. This is simply false, as DACA denies applications from candidates with a criminal record. Another claim is that illegal immigration cost Americans money and jobs, but research about the correlation between illegal immigration and negative economic effects will quickly dismiss this. Even top economists have disputed Trump’s claims that immigrants hurt the economy, and many estimate the immediate naturalization of immigrants would increase GDP. Dreamers pay income tax, even though they are ineligible for most forms of welfare or healthcare from the United States government, and there is no guarantee these immigrants will be paid minimum wage. Most cannot obtain a driver’s license or any other form of American identification. It costs the United States government almost nothing to bring these students to the US, as the $495 fee for each DACA application covers most expenses.
These immigrants work important jobs in almost every field available to a laborer. They, often times, have the same education as you and I. They take abuse from their peers and from an administration who considers them enemies of the state. Some have taken their own lives out of fear, others killed by police. They serve in the military for a country who does not recognize their “legality.” They defend your freedom. They participate in politics even without the right to vote, influencing policy-makers to help American citizens. They practice law and advocate for the rights of all who live in the US. They represent civil rights groups. They work at the stores you shop at. They clean your house, and sometimes they raise your children. They make the cars you drive; they harvest the food you eat. They are human beings. They are, in short, productive and desirable to this country’s improvement. Dismissing these good people because of where they are from will not help this country.
No human being is illegal, but the president’s position on these people is shameful, immoral, and quite frankly, un-American.